BackgroundNext-generation sequencing is increasingly used in prenatal diagnosis. Targeted gene panels and exome sequencing are both available, but the comparative diagnostic yields of these approaches are not known.
ObjectiveWe compared the diagnostic yield of exome sequencing with the simulated application of commercial targeted gene panels in a large cohort of fetuses with nonimmune hydrops fetalis.
Study designThis was a secondary analysis of a cohort study of exome sequencing for nonimmune hydrops fetalis, in which recruitment, exome sequencing, and phenotype-driven variant analysis were completed in 127 pregnancies with features of nonimmune hydrops fetalis. An Internet search was performed to identify commercial laboratories that offer targeted gene panels for the prenatal evaluation of nonimmune hydrops fetalis or for specific disorders associated with nonimmune hydrops fetalis using the terms "non-immune hydrops fetalis," "fetal non-immune hydrops," "hydrops," "cystic hygroma," "lysosomal storage disease," "metabolic disorder," "inborn error of metabolism," "RASopathy," and "Noonan." Our primary outcome was the proportion of all genetic variants identified through exome sequencing that would have been identified if a targeted gene panel had instead been used. The secondary outcomes were the proportion of genetic variants that would have been identified by type of targeted gene panel (general nonimmune hydrops fetalis, RASopathy, or metabolic) and the percent of variants of uncertain significance that would have been identified on the panels, assuming 100% analytical sensitivity and specificity of panels for variants in the included genes.
ResultsExome sequencing identified a pathogenic or likely pathogenic variant in 37 of 127 cases (29%) in a total of 29 genes. A variant of uncertain significance, strongly suspected to be associated with the phenotype, was identified in another 12 cases (9%). We identified 7 laboratories that offer 10 relevant targeted gene panels; 6 are described as RASopathy panels, 3 as nonimmune hydrops fetalis panels, and 1 as a metabolic panel. The median number of genes included on each of these panels is 22, ranging from 11 to 148. Had a nonimmune hydrops fetalis targeted gene panel been used instead of exome sequencing, 13 to 15 of the 29 genes (45%-52%) identified in our nonimmune hydrops fetalis cohort would have been sequenced, and 19 to 24 of the pathogenic variants (51%-62%) would have been detected. The yield was predicted to be the lowest with the metabolic panel (11%) and the highest with the largest nonimmune hydrops fetalis panel (62%). The largest nonimmune hydrops fetalis targeted gene panel would have had a diagnostic yield of 18% compared with 29% with exome sequencing. The exome sequencing platform used provided 30× or more coverage for all of the exons on the commercial targeted gene panels, supporting our assumption of 100% analytical sensitivity for exome sequencing.
ConclusionThe broader coverage of exome sequencing for genetically heterogeneous disorders, such as nonimmune hydrops fetalis, made it a superior alternative to targeted gene panel testing.